Three Bean Salad is ideal for summer BBQs, picnics, and potlucks! This classic dish combines green beans, wax beans, kidney beans, celery, and onion, tossed in a tangy sweet dressing that's both zesty and delicious.
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Why Three Bean Salad Is the Quintessential Salad From the 1950s
Today Bean Salad has fallen out of fashion in most of the country, but it was a trendy dish in the 50s and 60s. Busy and thrifty housewives whipped it up in minutes from canned ingredients and feed their large and hungry families without breaking the bank.
These days, if Three Bean Salad shows up on the dining table at all, it tends to be out of a store-bought premade salad in a jar. You can do much better with this recipe.
Why You Should Try Making Homemade Three Bean Salad
Three Bean Salad has so much going for it that it is curious you don't find it on more dining tables these days. Besides being affordable, easy to make, nutritious, and delicious, it's one of those dishes that actually tastes better on the second or third day.
That means it's perfect for bulk meal prep, especially since it's versatile enough to serve with just about anything. With old fashioned Three Bean Salad stashed in your fridge, you are seconds away from enjoying a tasty side or snack!
Classic Bean Salad Recipe Ingredients
For the dressing for 3 Bean Salad, you'll need:
- Vegetable oil
- White sugar
- Celery salt
- Finely ground black pepper
White wine vinegar is a good option, but you can also use apple cider or rice vinegar.
For finishing the salad, you'll need:
- Wax beans, canned
- Green beans, canned
- Kidney beans, canned
- White onion
Believe it or not, this salad tastes better with canned beans, so save your fresh beans for another dish!
How to Make Three Bean Salad
To prepare the dressing for 3 bean salad:
- Whisk together the vegetable oil, vinegar, sugar, salt, celery salt, and pepper in a bowl.
- Use the dressing immediately or transfer it to an airtight container and keep it in the fridge for up to three days.
To assemble the salad:
- Open and drain the cans of wax, green, and kidney beans.
- While the beans are draining, finely dice the celery and white onion into small pieces.
- Pour the drained beans into a large mixing bowl. Add the diced celery and white onions.
- Pour the dressing on top of the salad and gently mix.
- Cover the bowl and put it in the fridge for at least 24 hours before serving.
Possible Recipe Variations
Cooks have always argued about what beans are in 3 Bean Salad. There's no definitive answer. Chickpeas are a common addition to the mix, as are black and cannellini beans, but feel free to experiment.
Here are three modern riffs on old fashioned Three Bean Salad that you may want to make:
- Italian Three Bean Salad: Toss cannellini beans, green beans, chickpeas, diced red onions, minced sundried tomatoes, and shredded basil with your favorite balsamic vinegar dressing.
- Asian Three Bean Salad: Combine bean sprouts, edamame, black beans, shredded carrots, shredded green cabbage, and sliced green onions with a soy-ginger dressing.
- Southwest-Style Three Bean Salad: Mix black beans, kidney beans, green beans, corn kernels, diced red onions, and chopped cilantro with a few tablespoons of chipotle-lime dressing.
What to Serve With the Original 3 Bean Salad
This classic Three Bean Salad recipe is an ideal side dish for a wide range of main courses, but it can also take center stage in vegetarian dishes. Here are a few pairing suggestions you may want to try:
- Grilled meat. A thick pork chop or lightly seasoned chicken breast will benefit from the salad's tangy freshness and add bulk that can help satisfy the heartiest appetite.
- Burgers. Whether you are making a beef, turkey, or veggie burger, skip the fries and go with this healthier and tastier option.
- Soup. Transfer a bland chicken stock into a flavorful meal in seconds with a few heaping spoons of 3 Bean Salad. Add some shredded precooked chicken for even more protein.
- Grain bowls. Transform leftover quinoa, barley, or bulgar into a grain bowl by mixing it with this salad. Optionally, you can top the bowl with grilled chicken or tofu.
How to Store Classic Three Bean Salad
Keep the salad inside an airtight container in the fridge.
Can You Freeze Three Bean Salad?
Yes, you can freeze the salad if you are okay with the beans having a mushier consistency once defrosted. To avoid having to defrost all the salad at once, try storing individual portions in freezer-safe bags.
How Long Does Three Bean Salad Last?
The original 3 bean salad should stay fresh in the fridge for about four to five days. If you keep it in the freezer, it will be fine for a month or two.
More Vintage Side Dish Recipes
Easy Three Bean Salad
- ½ cup vegetable oil
- ½ cup vinegar
- ½ cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon celery salt
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 15-ounce can wax beans drained
- 1 15-ounce can green beans drained
- 1 15-ounce can kidney beans drained
- ½ cup chopped celery
- 1 tablespoon chopped onion
- Make the dressing by combining the vegetable oil, vinegar, sugar, salt, celery salt, and pepper in a bowl. Stir until well blended.
- Place the wax beans, green beans, kidney beans, celery, and chopped onion, in a medium-sized bowl. Pour the dressing over beans and stir to combine.
- Chill overnight before serving.